Bee orgies to biodiversity: lessons in becoming a beekeeper

What happens when a writer nervous of bees dons the hat and gloves to venture on a beekeeping course in Wales?

I’m not that fond of bees. The combination of having my heart broken by the film My Girl in early childhood (a sad bee-related ending for a young and still-sweet Macaulay Culkin) and an unfortunate incident in Tanzania, where I disturbed a gigantic nest of African honeybees (believe me a remote island in the middle of Lake Victoria is the last place you want to be while you “wait and see” if you’re allergic to bee stings), has not left me with the greatest affection for the creatures.

So when my editor asked if I’d like to do a course in beekeeping, at first I hesitated. But it’s ridiculous to be afraid of bees. The course is on Kate Humble’s farm in the Wye Valley; a day-long Sustainable Beekeeping course, where we will be told all about honeybees, how they live, the different hives you can use as well as other bits of bee paraphernalia, with expert instructors Nicola Bradbear and Janet Lowore from Bees for Development, an international charity based in nearby Monmouth.

As I head up to the farm I feel as if a hive of bees are actually circulating in my stomach. The other people on the course have signed up for a variety of reasons. A lady from Woking already keeps chickens and is thinking about adding bees to her smallholding. One poor chap has tried keeping bees and already lost two colonies; one to pesticides, and one to the varroa mite. And then there is the bloke who has been dragged along by his wife: “I got stung once and I’m here for revenge,” he says. I think that he is probably onto something.

Read the full article: Bee orgies to biodiversity: lessons in becoming a beekeeper

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